MASTERS SNOOKER 2013
- Venue: Alexandra Palace, London
- Date: 13-20 January
- Kick-off: Sessions start at 13:00 and 19:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Television and BBC Sport website
Neil Robertson came from 5-3 down to win three frames in a row and beat Ding Junhui 6-5 in a superb opening match of the 2013 Masters at Alexander Palace.
The defending champion led 2-0 and 3-2 before Ding took the sixth, seventh and eighth to leave him one from victory.
But the Australian left-hander hit back with breaks of 100, 62, and 90 in the decider, to reach the quarter-finals.
Robertson will play Mark Allen, who won four frames in a row to beat Mark Davis 6-2, in the last eight on Thursday.
"An electric start to the tournament and a champion's performance from Robertson who had to produce his very best to repel the challenge of Ding. From 2-0 down, the Chinese showed great character and skill as he made two century breaks to lead 5-3. He might have clinched the match in the ninth frame but the ball didn't roll his way and a reprieved Robertson reeled off the final three frames to keep alive his hopes of becoming only the fourth player to retain the Masters title."
The 26-year-old Northern Irishman was in fine form from the start, an excellent break of 136 securing the first frame.
Davis responded with a break of 62 to level before Allen restored his advantage.
Although Davis again hit back to make it 2-2, he had no answer to Allen after the interval. After an error in the seventh frame left Davis needing to win the last four frames to progress, Allen secured the match with a break of 80.
Earlier, world number five Robertson produced a stunning comeback having appeared to have lost his early momentum as Ding found some of the form that saw him win the title in 2011.
Robertson got his powerful long potting going with a trademark red with his opening shot of the match, and a superb break of 76 gave him the first frame.
He then edged a tighter, more tactical second frame, a good pot on the final red allowing him to clear to the pink and celebrate with a fist-pump for a 2-0 lead.
But Ding, who began the third frame by taking five attempts to hit a red, sunk one over the bottom corner from distance to kick-start a break of 103.
A run of 53 in the next then saw the world number eight draw level at the interval, but a poor safety shot off the black on the resumption allowed Robertson to edge in front again after a break of 46.
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Neil Robertson on his victory celebration
“Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods... they all show emotion. It's good to see passion”
But the Chinese star, who has not made it beyond the second round in any of the five ranking tournaments this season, refused to be cowed.
His second century break, a fluent 127, levelled matters again before he prevailed in a nervy seventh frame to take the lead for the first time.
Ding won a third frame in a row after a break of 54 to put himself within one of victory.
But Robertson's break of exactly 100 reduced the deficit, and the key moment came when Ding was unfortunate not to land on a red after compiling 50 in the 10th frame.
"He was unlucky to go into the pack off the blue. If the white had run another inch, it would have been all over," said Robertson.
Instead a superb 62 clearance saw the Australian level the match and the 30-year-old held his nerve when presented with a chance in the decider, celebrating with a shout of "You beauty!" after sinking the clinching red.
"Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods when he rolls in a 12-footer to win a major, they all show emotion," Robertson noted when discussing his exuberant celebrations. "It's good to see passion.
"I am in a fortunate position to be able to try and defend my title. Ding played fantastically well but if I was told I could play like that for the rest of the tournament I would be happy."
The Melbourne-born player is aiming to become only the fourth player - after Cliff Thorburn (1985 and 1986), Stephen Hendry (five in a row from 1989-1993) and the late Paul Hunter (2001 and 2002) - to successfully defend the title.
By contrast Allen's recent competition form has not been good since reaching the UK Championship final 13 months ago.
"My results of late haven't been that great and this is my first match on the BBC that I've won in 13 months so it's been a long time coming," he said.
He added: "I played okay out there. I started really well and finished well. I'm happy overall but there's still a lot of improvement needed."